Friday, March 22, 2013

Creativity With Food: Days 14 to 20

                                                              Day 14: Artic Melting                              

                                                             Day 15: Guess Who Stays Here?

                                                           Day 16: Three Little Pigs

                                                         Day 17: How The Third Pig Got Away

                                                             Day 18: Cucumber Landscape

                                                            Day 19: Owl-nion!

                                                                Day 20: Tiny Tutus

Miri 1

Miri is a big town small city about 40 minutes by plane from Kota Kinabalu. Borneo Island looks sort of like the profile of a terrier, with its face towards the right. Miri is just a little bit further south of Brunei, a country famed for its wealth from oil and gas, and for the exciting lifestyles of its rulers. This is my first trip to Miri although 20 years ago I was nearly there when I spent a couple of days in the famous limestone caves of Miri called Mulu Caves. The caves are worth a visit. You can skip the town unless you like hot open spaces, chaotic roads, bad drivers and randomly located buildings.

Miri looks like it's on a booming roll, with thousands of new houses and super straight wide roads (envy). Other than the oil and gas industry, Miri's economy is fueled also by the presence of 3,500 Curtin University (of Australia) students. Beats me why anyone would want to spend four years seeking knowledge in a place like Miri but then who am I to judge, especially when my own son is enrolled there for foundation studies. I've always advised kids that university life is not just about studying, but also being exposed to different cultures and ideologies.

I was so looking forward to eating Fuzhou noodles; just love them. From the airport, we went straight to Hong Yung Cafe in Morsjaya, less than 10 minutes away.

    Look at that, only RM4 for a bowl of noodles! 

    The people sitting at the next table were having this, steamed tofu with pork and salted fish, but it had to be pre-ordered a day before. Darn it, it looked good.

    This is baiguogang, fried sticky rice noodles. It was yum. The Shanghainese has a different way of frying these noodles, here.  

    This is one of my fave Fuzhou noodles but this bowl of din bian hu was rather bland. It didn't have the deep flavor of pork bones and cuttlefish stock that lady at the Fuzhuo Association building in Kota Kinabalu used to serve.

    Again, maybe because I was comparing all these noodle dishes to those I ate at the Fuzhuo Building in KK, I found this rather bland although I did like it because the fish balls were home-made and the sourish jowcai (a preserved veg) was refreshing.

    Pork liver and heart soup. I ate a slice of liver; it was tender and tasty.

    About 10 years ago, a friend used to bring delicious Sarawak kolo mee back to KK every Friday night. This plate of kolo mee is not as good as my favorite kolo mee in Inanam, KK. 

It was an eating spree all day in Miri. We ate pork and taro buns at tea time but I wasn't impressed (the bao was fine and soft but the filling was just a bit of meat with lots of chopped onions held together by thick gravy. The taro filling looked dyed and tasted of cheap margarine) so I didn't bother with photos.

My son had a good meal at Mei Xiang Cafe (second shop on the right, Jalan Jee Foh Utama, Krokop)  a couple of weeks ago and dreamt about eating the pork dishes again.

    Midin is a fern that is to Sarawakians as sayur manis is to Sabahans: very loved and ubiquitous. The midin here was fried in rice wine--utterly delicious.

    Another hit, chicken cooked in wine--awesome fragrance and flavor!

    My son's fave dish, thin slices of pork belly fried with salted fish served piping hot in a claypot.

    Pork belly slices fried with salt (joo rou chao yen). This tasted quite ordinary, like Korean samgyusal and it went well with rice.

    House tofu.

    A simple dish of bean sprouts with salted fish--crunchy sprouts, tasty sauce and a strong 'wok fire' made this the best dish to me.

The bill came to RM73.40 for 6 of us. No wonder Hub thinks Miri is great. I was not so sure because by the time we got to our car, my stomach was churning. I spent the whole night in discomfort. I couldn't figure out what--the lunch, the tea break or the dinner--caused the runs because only three of us got sick.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Taro & Pork Ribs Congee

I couldn't find taro in the market or supermarket so I waited for the Donggongon tamu (a local market that is held on Thurdays and Fridays in Donggongon). Look at the stuff I picked up there this morning:

    Baby jicama, RM5 per kg.

    An Indonesian fruit called salak, RM2 for all that. 

    Taro, RM4 per kg.

    No idea what this is but it's sour and the vendor said it's for cooking fish.  RM1 for all that.

   Rm3 for the sweet corn (pretty expensive for 4 but this is Malaysia), RM2 for the limes, RM2 for the very fresh and young petola and RM1 for each bundle of tender Chinese spinach and long beans.

When I got home from the market, the congee that Vero cooked was purplish in color. She had added pulut hitam (black glutinous rice) because we had run out of brown rice (we are mostly on brown rice now because my mom's diabetic). It was too wasteful to cook another pot of congee so I went with what Vero had cooked. When we sat down for lunch (congee for lunch in tropical weather is a big mistake), the kids wondered if the congee was savory or sweet.

Surprisingly, it was good congee. Taro never fails, never.

Taro & Pork Ribs Congee

400 to 500 g pork ribs, chopped into 3 cm pieces & blanched with boiling water & drained
400 to 500 gm taro, peeled and cut into chunks 3 cm square
1 1/2 cups white or brown rice, washed
2 cloves garlic, 1/4 of a small brown onion and a very small knob of fresh ginger, all smashed and chopped finely

1. In a heavy-based pot, fry the garlic, onion and ginger in about 1 tablespoon of veg oil until soft and fragrant but not brown. Add the rice and stir, then add water about 15 times the volume of the rice. Cover and simmer, stirring once in a while. Add more water to make the congee thinner if like. Note: Do not add water to ready cooked congee or it will turn watery when cold. Some congee purists (usually HK people) start with the right amount of water and never add anymore, controlling the consistency of the congee by controlling the heat.
2. After one hour, add the spare ribs and simmer again for 30 minutes. Usually, at this point, I like to turn the heat off and let the congee swell. If you are doing that, you can add the taro now. It will cook but if it doesnt go soft enough, go to Step 3.
3. Add the taro and simmer until the taro is tender but not too soft. Season with salt and pepper. Let congee steep for a while before serving.

Creativity With Food: Day 11, 12 &13

                                                     Day 11: Campbell's Tomato Soup

Day 12: Giant Squid Attack!
Day 13: Banksy On My Plate  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Creative Food: Day 10

                                                         "Dogs in my Oreos"

'Honey' Mi Zi Ribs

Mi zi ribs

This recipe is from a Chinese website and I had help from my daughter to translate some crazy sentences such as 'kaiguo sauce', which means turning up the fire to reduce the sauce and "heat the pan, put sugar in the fire glycated open blister", which means heat the sugar until it bubbles. The amount of ingredients were not listed and the step by step photos did not show the addition of honey, but I think you can add some honey at the end to glaze the ribs. I didn't, because there was enough sugar in the ribs. I've added garlic powder to the ribs because I like the flavor and the powder is soon going past the expiry date but you can just use fresh garlic. The ribs turned out superb--sweet, sticky, moist and delicious, "better than the restaurants" (said my son)--so do give it a try, especially when you need that sugar high.

   Similar to my super yummy soy sauce duck (you must cook that!), the sugar is melted in the oil. This will give a beautiful, shiny, sticky glaze later.

    Everything's added all at once; super easy recipe.

    Water is added to the level of the ribs.

    When the ribs are soft, the sauce is reduced by heating it at high heat until it thickens.

    Home-grown cilantro, yum.

'Honey' Mi Zi Ribs

1 kg pork belly ribs, about 5 cm or longer
1/2 bulb garlic, minced
2 T garlic powder (optional)
two pinches of fine salt
2 1/2 T light soy sauce (or to taste)--I used Lee Kum Kee Selected Light SS
2 1/2 T dark soy sauce (or to taste)
1 T tomato ketchup
3 T veg oil
3 T coarse or fine white sugar (you can reduce this by a tablespoon and add some honey at the end)
1 small piece (size of your thumb) rock sugar
2 T rice wine

Garnish with: toasted sesame seeds, cilantro & blanched broccoli

1. Scald the ribs with boiling water & drain well.
2. Marinade ribs with garlic powder, salt and soy sauces for at least 1/2 hour (or overnight like I did).
3. Add the oil and sugar to an unheated pot and turn the heat on at medium. Melt the sugar until it is lightly golden in color. It's ok if the melted sugar hardens (it won't if you use more oil but for health reasons, I used less oil); it will melt again when water is added to it.
4. Add the ribs, including the marinade sauce, and the minced garlic to the pot and stir at high heat until evenly coated with the melted sugar.
5. Add enough water to reach the level of the ribs. Cover and simmer at medium low heat (make sure the sauce bubbles) until ribs are tender (depending on the size of the ribs, about 30 to 45 min) but not too soft because they still need to be cooked for another 15 to 20 minutes to reduce the sauce. You can add more soy sauce (light for taste, dark for color) but remember that the ribs will be saltier and darker when the sauce is reduced.
6. Remove the cover, add the rice wine and turn the heat to the highest, stirring frequently to reduce the sauce.
7. Plate up with a border of blanched broccoli and top with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro leaves. Goes very well with plain rice.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Creativity With Food: Day 8

                                               March 8, 2013 "Dragon In My Dragon Fruit!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Creativity With Food, 1-7 March, 2013

Since I've not been cooking much (house reno, diets, too busy), I thought I'd keep this blog alive by posting my daughter's project, Creativity With Food, which will run for the whole month of March. Yi will create a picture using food on a white plate and so far, it just gets better and better. I think she should take over my kitchen. If we eat what she creates/cooks, we don't have to worry about gaining weight.

                                                              March 1, 2013 "Watermelon"

 March 2, 2013 "The Scream"

March 3, 2013 "My Garden"

March 4, 2013 "Pray for Sabah"

  March 5, 2013 "Sonny, KFC is a bad, bad place"

March 6, 2013 "All You Need is Love: Wennie & Joshua"

                                              March 7, 2013 "The Giant Wave At Kanagawa"

Friday, March 1, 2013

Black Pomfret In Garlic Oil

    Fried whole scad, eaten with rice and a chili-lime dip.
Whole small oily fishes such as sardines, scads and even anchovies are best eaten fried. We don't get herrings here but I think they are also good fried although right now I crave Dutch-style herrings, eaten raw, whole and coated with  raw chopped onions. Oily forage fish or bait fish are very tasty but considered cheap fish compared to white fish. Oily bait fishes have a stronger flavor and sweeter taste than white fish and are a lot more safer to eat than large white fishes because 1) they eat plankton so they are vegetarians compared to bigger predator fish, which should make them more healthy to eat 2) they haven't lived long enough to accumulate massive amounts of heavy metals as big fishes have 3) they don't have a high commercial value so there's less chance of them being preserved with dubious chemicals.

Black pomfret are not bait fishes and hardly considered cheap now but they make the best fried fish in my opinion. Black pomfrets with a body (i.e. excluding the tail) the size of my hand are the perfect size for eating. Too small and I feel guilty eating fish that hasn't had a chance to breed. Too big and there's too much meat to skin. The flesh of the black pomfret is soft, fine-textured and sweet but it's the deep-fried toasted flavor of the crispy skin and bones (which are soft enough to eat, especially if the fish is small), and especially the crispy fins (and the head!), that make the black pomfret so delicious. The another reason I love the black pomfret is the bonus in the belly. Nine out of ten black pomfrets will have at least one to two lumps of precious plump roe--get the fish with a swollen belly.

You'd pooh-pooh me for this recipe but sometimes the simplest recipes make the best meals. Fried black pomfret in garlic oil, drizzled with black soy sauce and eaten with plain rice and a chili-calamansi lime dip may be simple but you'd be surprised how delicious it is, especially when washed down with a 'long-boiled' watercress or winter melon soup. 

    Black pomfret In Garlic Oil

Crispy Pomfret In Garlic Oil
2 black pomfrets, each about the size of your hand or bigger
1 bulb garlic, smashed and chopped finely
coriander leaves (cilantro) to garnish
1/2 cup veg oil

1. Clean the pomfrets, removing scales and guts. Keep the roe. Score a couple of slits in the thickest part of the fish and dry the fish and roe with paper towel.
2. Put oil into a heated wok or frying pan. Add the chopped garlic and fry in low heat, stirring all the time until garlic is crisp and golden (not too brown or it'll be bitter). Remove garlic and set aside. Leave the oil in the wok/pan and reheat.
3. When oil is slightly smoking, add the fish (two fish if wok or pan is big enough). Fry in medium heat, turning the wok or pan every few minutes so that the whole fish is fried crisp. Turn fish only when done on the underside and fry the other side. Do not rush. Add more oil if there's not enough to fry the sides of the fish. The fish must be well-fried until crispy all over. Turn the fire up for the last few minutes of frying to give the fish a crispy toasted flavor.
4. Remove fish onto a serving plate, top with the fried garlic and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon each of dark soy sauce (and light soy sauce if like--I like Maggi soy sauce). Add about one tablespoon of the garlic oil if like (for health reason, I don't). Scatter some coriander leaves over and serve immediately with plain rice and a small saucer of bird's eyes chilies and calamansi limes.

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